Introversion and Schizoid Traits

Not so long ago, I was dropped a link by a reader to Wikipedia’s entry on schizoid personality disorder.  I was shocked as I read it over.

I read through the descriptions and lists on this page and found that to some degree I could be seen as exhibiting every single characteristic.

Like narcissism, this schizoid assessment can be kind of tricky.  Obviously, everyone is narcissistic to some degree.  It’s the inevitable result of living as ourselves and no one else.  Where then does normality end and disorder begin?

The same problem with a schizoid personality disorder.  A schizoid personality type shares many traits with introversion (or introversion is considered part of being schizoid) and is considered to usually be within the spectrum of normally functional individuals.  Disorder is diagnosed at the extreme ends of this schizoid spectrum.

Since there’s so much misunderstanding of introverts, I have to wonder if defining schizoids can end up pathologizing introverted traits that are merely incongruent with the mass society.

Here is one of the lists of ‘symptoms’ from the article with my comments on each:

-Emotional coldness, detachment or reduced affection.

(Defensive behaviors against a hostile society force one to emotionally detach in order to cope and survive.  It’s hard to be bright and cheerful while being defensive.)

-Limited capacity to express either positive or negative emotions towards others.

(Defensive habits make it difficult to really open up to others.  Without regular uninhibited social interaction one really gets out of practice.  If one grew up under such circumstances, it’s possible one never learned certain basic social conventions during critical formative stages.)

-Consistent preference for solitary activities.

(If others don’t share your interests, what else are you going to do?  Worse, they’ll probably criticize and ridicule if they find out.  Solitary becomes necessary!)

-Very few, if any, close friends or relationships, and a lack of desire for such.

(So little in common with others that it can be hard to find anyone who’s compatible.)

-Indifference to either praise or criticism.

(Does so many things outside of regular society that one stops caring whether others approve or disapprove.  One has to stop caring to stay sane!)

Taking pleasure in few, if any, activities.

(If one is forced to pursue one’s favorite activities solitarily and secretly then it seems as though one takes pleasure in nothing by the light of day.  Could perhaps be rewritten as: Taking pleasure in few if any socially approved activities.)

-Indifference to social norms and conventions.

(Social norms cause pain and inconvenience.  They stand against one’s personality and preferences.  If permitted to rule over one’s life, the result could only be a denial of one’s deepest self.  They are ignored when possible.)

-Preoccupation with fantasy and introspection.

(It’s a great way of compartmentalizing life and getting through all the rough parts without an excess of pain.  It’s another defense.  Who doesn’t daydream in unpleasant and boring situations?  Furthermore, the inner life is where the outer life is interpreted.  It is in the inner realm where patterns are seen and truth is discovered.  If dreams are a way for our minds to interpret, store, and clean up a day worth of overwhelming inputs, a fantasy life while awake can serve much the same function.)

-Lack of desire for sexual experiences with another person.

(Sexual experiences require lots of social skill and status.  Most importantly, it requires revealing oneself to someone who probably adheres to the conventional society.  Only criticism and censure could ensue.)

While a true excess of any of these traits could be construed as a disorder, I see many ways that a fairly normal introverted person could receive a disorder diagnosis.  Rather than truly being emotionally cold or lacking desire to be with other human beings, such an individual could be easily misunderstood, their actions misinterpreted.  I can’t help but notice that solitary activities are a criteria for disorder without any concern for

why the activities are being pursued solitarily or

why there are few friends or sexual relationships.

why there is an unusual reliance on defense mechanisms, emotional detachment, or fantasy just to get through a day

Upon examination it starts seeming less like a mental problem and more like a way of singling out social misfits.

In fact, the social history of an introvert can often be characterized as a long history of misdiagnosis and being singled out.  Many people I’ve encountered in life have assumed the worst about me at every turn.  So much so that I expect it out of people and have to go out of my way to be extra polite and carefully avoid conflict.  I find the schizoid definitions to be an organized list of ways extroverts have misunderstood and then reacted.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Introversion and Schizoid Traits appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

related: Introverts, Asperger’s, Autism

on 10/24/11 in featured, Society | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Suzan Clark says: pretty much pegged me.. too.

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